Heart Disease and Relationships: How To Reclaim Your Marriage After A Heart Attack

Heart disease and relationships. How do you reclaim your life, after you've had a heart attack? Heart disease is a serious health issue in the United States and many industrialized nations, and exerts a toll on one’s relationships, work and marital life. Many patients who have had heart attacks leave the hospital without knowing whether it’s okay to resume their married life, or how to go about it. 

The entire topic of heart disease and relationships may be completely ignored by a patient’s doctor or health care provider. And, the important subjects of stress management, diet and exercise may be avoided or omitted from the discussion. But, all are incredibly critical factors in resuming or rebuilding your life and improving your health.

A loving couple holds hands in a beautiful sunsetSurviving a Heart Attack Can Help You to Embrace Your Relationships with Greater Joy

Unanswered Questions About Heart Disease and Relationships

Many people who have survived a serious heart attack are not sure when it’s okay to become romantic again, or whether all romantic activity is a no-no. These types of questions a patient should always discuss with his or her doctor, but he/she may have to ask since some hospitals are notorious for allowing heart patients to leave the hospital without clear instructions on after-care. I encourage you to ask questions -- ask the questions you may be afraid to ask. They are often the most important. Ask your doctor what your heart is healthy enough for, sexually and exercise-wise.

When You Have Heart Disease Trust Your Doctor's Advice, Communicate with Your Spouse and Family

Naturally, heart patients want to resume normal relationships with their spouses, as soon as possible, and they want to resume healthy activities. Spouses are often reluctant to be amorous with the heart attack victim, and may need guidance and reassurance. 

There are guidelines published by the American Heart Association for how to accelerate healing after a heart attack, and the patient should familiarize himself with these. But nothing beats staying in touch with your doctor and asking as many questions as possible. Your cardiologist may be too busy to answer, so you may have to be persistent.

Always conduct a frank and open discussion with your spouse about these issues. Get questions, concerns and uncertainties out into the open -- and make sure you both are on the same page. Adopt a plan, communicate that plan to each other and follow it, always seeking advice from your cardiologist, if you have questions.

Whatever you do, don’t remain in the dark. And don’t worry about becoming a nuisance. Get the information you need. It is your life that matters.

Heart Disease and Relationships: Counseling Can Help 

Get counseling from a mental health professional if you have anxiety or fear about resuming your activities, or you are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental conditions. Many heart attack victims suffer from PTSD or they have such strong fears about having another heart attack, they're afraid to get back to their normal lives. Depending on your prognosis, it may take time to recover. Heart disease and relationships go hand in hand, but the problems can be solved. 

Couple getting marital therapyCounseling can be an important part of the healing process

There are many effective techniques for dealing with anxiety or the fear of having another heart attack. It pays to learn them. Anxiety can rob your life of much pleasure and joy. There is no need to suffer in silence. Again, tell your health care provider about it. Some cardiology offices are better than others at helping patients to deal with anxiety problems, so be persistent.

Patients who have been shocked by their implanted devices often develop anxiety problems and need counseling and support in moving past the anxieties or they can become debilitating. 

When you have heart disease, anxiety may make it more difficult to relax and feel good about engaging in romance in a relationship. This tends to decrease over time. Some patients may experience flashbacks which can impact romance in negative ways. Flashbacks or the fear of having flashbacks can be a problem for some patients. Thus, understanding heart disease and relationships is so important. PTSD can be very hard on relationships. 

The best way to deal with any psychological symptom is to seek the help of a licensed therapist. Treatment for anxiety, panic or trauma can be quite effective, if you get the right help. My suggestion is not to delay, but find the help you need quickly. Ask your physician for a recommendation, if necessary.

Need more information? Learn how to improve your relationship or address preexisting relationship problems, which often become stirred up after a health crisis.

Heart Disease and Relationships: Seven Key Tips For Recovery 

Recovering from a heart attack is never easy, can be a positive process for those who take proper steps. Here are Seven Key Steps: 

#1) Follow your doctor’s after-care instructions. Avoid making the mistake of thinking you know more about heart disease than your physician.

#2) Take you medications as prescribed. They will protect your heart and rebuild function.

#3) Change your diet. Eat a sensible and disciplined diet. Focus on a whole, natural diet, avoiding processed food and sugar. Diets very low in saturated fat are protective against heart disease. Look into the Dean Ornish reversal diet, if you have heart disease.

#4) Exercise as you are permitted. The more you can exercise in safe ways, the better for your heart. After all, your heart is a muscle. Get your physician’s approval first, and wait to start your exercise program until you have the doctor’s okay.

#5) Manage your stress. Stress is dangerous and silently stalks its victims. Develop a plan for addressing stress in your life and devote the necessary time to preventing stress. Taking care of yourself is of critical importance!

#6) Get plenty of rest. Rest gives your body a chance to heal itself. When you are sleeping is when your body does its best work.

#7) Learn to handle conflict in sensible and effective ways without getting upset or angry. Marital conflict and relationship discord are natural problems, after a heart attack.

First of all, the many heart patients will be prone to anger. This is a normal result of having a heart attack. You may need help in dealing with your anger. Don't be afraid to ask.

Secondly, the patient’s spouse may be unsure of how to handle the patient’s health concerns and emotions. A heart attack changes everything.

Heart Disease and Relationships: Learning to Relax and Manage Stress

Learning to relax and manage stress is very important to the recovery process. Deep relaxation can help the heart to heal and reset itself. Relaxation skills can help a patient avoid further complications and future heart events, along with a healthy lifestyle and a heart-healthy diet. 

Perhaps nothing is more important than learning good relaxation skills to protect the heart from unhealthy emotions and stress. Our Journey to Relaxation audio will help you to achieve a state of deep relaxation, which will do your heart (and brain) a great deal of good. Many of my clients listen to the program once or twice a  week to reduce stress and facilitate the healing process. 

The program will help you to break the worry cycle, and to sit in the quiet stillness and rest your heart in a powerful, dynamic way. By listening on a regular basis, you'll be able to feel more relaxed, better rested and at peace. 

Heart Disease and Relationships: Benefits of Deep Relaxation 

Deep relaxation can improve your health and well being. Here are a few of the many benefits:

  • Slows heart rate and improves blood pressure 
  • Relieves aches and pains
  • Enhances overall heart health
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves sleep
  • Relaxes arteries and improves blood flow
  • Improves mental focus and clarity
  • Enhances mood and attitude
  • Improves connection with others and spouse
  • Makes communication easier 

Heart Disease and Marital Conflict

It is only natural for the heart patient and his/her spouse to have questions, concerns and fears about resuming marital relations. No one wants to over-tax the patient. The fear of doing something wrong or resuming sexual activity too quickly may is common for both the patient and the spouse.

You can decrease the amount of stress and marital conflict you have if you practice good communication skills. 

  •  Be sure to talk with your spouse often about any fears or concerns you may have. Spouses should always listen because victims of heart attacks need to talk. And it's important to listen to each other.
  • Work together to solve your problems. 
  • Communicate more, not less. 
  • Seek your spouse’s advice and input in all matters, and make decisions together. This can be an opportunity for you to become closer to your spouse, and to improve your relationship. Spouses play a big role in the patient’s recovery. And love and support can help to make the heart stronger. 

A heart attack can bring spouses closer together, and enhance the quality of marriage. This  is another area where heart disease and relationships require our attention. A heart attack can signal the need for improving the relationship, as well. There is no better time than after a heart attack to make an effort to improve the relationship since the partners have been reminded how precious life is and how precious the relationship should be. Use the time to improve on marital conflict.

Heart Disease and Relationships: Love and Support:

We  must consider the impact of heart disease and relationships because love and support are essential ingredients in a good plan to strengthen your heart. Relationships with family members can be extremely helpful to a heart patient . . . helpful in many ways. 

Certainly they can offer support, care and affection during the recovery or convalescence stages. They can give the patient hope and confidence. And something to look forward to in the future. And . . . they should have a positive and therapeutic affect. Be sure to engage in healthy relationships that fill the heart with joy and peace.

What is the impact of heart disease on relationships? Unhealthy or problematic relationships can create excess stress and tax your emotions. If your family is part of your problem, stress-wise, work on solving the problem or get professional help. Unburdening the heart is one of the greatest steps you can take to healing the heart. Counseling can help you to develop healthy boundaries and coach you into building stronger, less troublesome alliances with family members and friends.

Richard's Free 10-Minute Meditation AudioSit back, Let Go and Let Richard's Soothing Voice Take you to a Happy, Stress-Free Place Within

Heart Disease and Relationships: Additional Tips For Getting Your Life Back 

1. Don’t try to come back too quickly . . . take your time in rebuilding your health.

2. Resume your previous lifestyle gradually, while making the necessary changes in diet, exercise and other aspects of your life.

3. If you need to stop smoking, stop! You can do it, if you really want to. What a joy it will be to finally rid your body of all those impurities and toxins, and to recover normal breathing patterns. What a joy it is to breathe deeply again! There are many new smoking cessation programs available. Check into programs available in your geographic area.

4. Family relationships can be extremely helpful to a heart patient . . . helpful in many ways. But be sure to engage in healthy relationships, not dysfunctional ones. If your family is part of your problem, stress-wise, get some professional help.

In Sum

When thinking about heart disease and relationships, remember how relationships can help you to recover from heart disease. Giving and receiving love and support is so critical to recovery from heart disease. Be sure to follow your heart to a path of greater emotional healing, forgiveness and deeper, satisfying relationships.  

And while you are recovering, there is no better time to think about how you can improve your relationships. Good relationships will make you a happier and healthier person. Take care of your relationships and your relationships will take care of you!

Find more information at the American Heart Association:


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